Talking science in a second language: The interactive co-construction of dialogic explanations in the CLIL science classroom

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


his case study adopts an exploratory, interpretive and holistic qualitative methodology in order to examine and portray the interactional process of the co-construction of academic dialogic explanations in CLIL settings. With this aim, naturally-occurring data, which come from a first year CLIL science classroom (Biology in English as L2) in a state-funded secondary school in Barcelona (Spain), are thoroughly analyzed. The participants are a CLIL biology teacher and 16 twelve-year-old students. This PhD dissertation adopts Multimodal CA-for-CLIL as its analytical methodology, which combines current sociocultural perspectives on teaching-and-learning with methods provided by Conversation Analysis and Multimodal Analysis. The detailed examination of teacher-student interactions is divided into three studies. Each study takes on different sociocultural constructs that contribute to understand the teacher and students’ participation in the co-construction of dialogic explanations in the CLIL science classroom. The following constructs are employed: study 1: ‘mediated action’ and a community of practice (CoP) approach to learning; study 2: ‘opacity’ and ‘density’; study 3 ‘interactional competence’ (IC) and ‘participation’. In a transversal way, all three studies apply the constructs ‘classroom interactional competence’ (CIC) and ‘interactional scaffolding’. Taken together, the three studies enable the analyst to provide a more comprehensible, precise and deeper picture of the phenomenon under consideration. Study 1 reveals that the participants employ an array of multimodal resources (e.g., languages; prosody; pauses; gaze, gesture, head movement; material artefacts) as powerful interactional mediating tools to establish a mutual focus within teaching-and-learning activities, negotiate meanings, develop shared understandings and co-construct dialogic explanations. All this evidences the participants’ joint orientation towards the students’ progress in talking school-science in the L2 and their gradual transformation into competent practitioners of their science classroom CoP. Study 2 focuses on the way the participants signal and cooperatively tackle obstacles caused by L2 opacity and content density. It is found that the process of constructing science explanations is dialogic, teacher-led and student-centred. In this process the sequences of mediation and remediation are highly interwoven. On the other hand, the processes of the de-contextualization and re-contextualization of the interactional focus on lexical items render an effective pedagogical strategy for L2 teaching in the CLIL classroom. Study 3 demonstrates that the students, particularly those who remain silent, efficiently mobilize multimodal resources to accomplish their varied ways of participating in classroom interaction and teacher-led activities. Thus, they display their developing IC in the L2. This allows assuming that the gradual acquisition by ‘silent’ students of new ways of displaying their participation in social practices of the CLIL classroom may favour the development of their IC. Another contribution of this piece of work is the elaboration of a tentative analytical framework for the identification and characterization of different participation patterns displayed by students in CLIL classrooms. Transversally, the three studies depict a teacher who skilfully deploys CIC and a range of interactional scaffolding strategies to guide the students in their cooperative enterprise of teaching-and-learning school-science in the L2. It is suggested that in this way the teacher has fostered interaction in the L2 in the observed classroom and created space and tools favourable for the co-construction and problematization of academic (content and language) knowledge and a more active participation of the students in this process. As a whole, the dissertation demonstrates that the adopted analytical approach has rendered very well suited to capturing and describing intricacies and specificities of the interactional process of co-constructing academic dialogic explanations in one CLIL science classroom. It therefore provides further evidence that Multimodal CA-for-CLIL may enable researchers to better understand the way particular social practices can be jointly and interactionally accomplished by participants in CLIL classrooms.
Date of Award10 Oct 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCristina Escobar Urmeneta (Director)

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